Hidden Brain

Science Podcasts

Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.


United States


Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.




1111 North Capitol St NE Washington, DC 20002


When You Need It To Be True

When we want something very badly, it can be hard to see warning signs that might be obvious to other people. This week, we revisit a favorite episode from 2021, bringing you two stories about how easy it can be to believe in a false reality — even when the facts don’t back us up. If you missed it, make sure to listen to last week's episode on how to turn a "no" into a "yes." And if you enjoy the show and would like to help us make more episodes of Hidden Brain, please consider supporting...


Persuasion: Part 2

Think back to the last time someone convinced you to do something you didn't want to do, or to spend money you didn't want to spend. What techniques did that person use to persuade you? This week, we continue our look at the science of influence with psychologist Robert Cialdini, and explore how these techniques can be used for both good and evil. Did you listen to the first part of our episodes on influence? Don't miss last week's episode on how to turn a "no" into a "yes." And if you...


Persuasion: Part 1

We all exert pressure on each other in ways small and profound. We recommend movies or books to a friend. We convince a colleague to take a different tactic at work. We lobby a neighbor to vote for our favored political candidate. This week, we launch the first of a two-part mini-series on the science of influence, and talk with psychologist Robert Cialdini about how we can all improve our techniques for persuading others. Trying to make a big decision or fulfill a personal goal in the year...


Who's In Your Inner Circle?

If you think about the people in your life, it's likely that they share a lot in common with you. Maybe they like the same kinds of food, or enjoy the same hobbies. But, if you dig a little deeper, you may find that they share much more: they might make the same amount of money as you, or share the same race. This week, we talk with economists Luigi Pistaferri and Matthew Jackson about why we often surround ourselves with people who are just like us — and how we can transform our lives by...


Who Do You Want To Be?

We all have to make certain choices in life, such as where to live and how to earn a living. Parents and peers influence our major life choices. But they can also steer us in directions that leave us deeply unsatisfied. Psychologist Ken Sheldon studies the science of figuring out what you want. He says there are things we can do to make sure our choices align with our deepest values. Did you catch last week's episode about how to develop healthy habits? You can find it here. And if you'd...


You, But Better

It's the time of year when many of us make resolutions for the year ahead. We pledge to quit smoking, eat better, or get more exercise. Then a few weeks go by, and we abandon our best-laid plans. That’s because change is hard. This week, we revisit a favorite 2021 conversation with behavioral scientist Katy Milkman, who shares how we can structure our lives to do what we know is good for us. Did you catch last week's episode about why we complain — and how we can complain more effectively?...


How to Complain Productively

We often look down on people who complain a lot. Yet when something goes wrong in our own lives, many of us go straight to griping, grumbling and kvetching. This week. we talk with psychologist Robin Kowalski about how we can complain more effectively. We'll also hear from psychologist Mike Baer, who offers ways we can give better feedback to a friend or colleague who comes to us with complaints. Did you catch our recent episode about the power of rituals? You can find it here. And if you...


An Ancient Solution to Modern Problems

People in every country and culture mark important milestones, such as births, marriages and deaths, with intricately choreographed scripts. We even appeal to supernatural forces to give our favorite sports teams an extra advantage. This week on the show, anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas explains the psychological power behind the sacred and secular rituals that structure our lives. Did you catch our recent episode about the secret to good gift giving? You can find it here . And if you...


The Secret to Gift Giving

With the holidays upon us, many of us are hunting for that special something for the special someones in our lives. It's how we show we care about them. So why is it so hard to find the right gift? This week, we talk with researcher Jeff Galak about why the presents we give for holidays and birthdays often miss their mark, and how to become a better gift giver. If you missed any of the episodes in our recent Relationships 2.0 series, you can find them all in this podcast feed, or on our...


Relationships 2.0: What Makes Relationships Thrive

Everyone wants to be loved and appreciated. In the final episode of our Relationships 2.0 series, we revisit a conversation with psychologist Harry Reis, who says there’s another ingredient to successful relationships that’s every bit as important as love. If you missed any of the episodes in our Relationships 2.0 series, you can find them all in this podcast feed, or on our website. And if you enjoyed this series, please consider supporting our work.


Relationships 2.0: When Did Marriage Become So Hard?

No one will deny that marriage is hard. In fact, there's evidence it's getting even harder. This week on the show, we revisit a favorite episode from 2018 about the history of marriage and how it has evolved over time. We'll talk with historian Stephanie Coontz and psychologist Eli Finkel, and explore ways we can improve our love lives — including by asking less of our partners. For more of our Relationships 2.0 series, be sure to check out last week's episode, "An Antidote to Loneliness."...


Relationships 2.0: An Antidote to Loneliness

When you go to a medical appointment, your doctor may ask you several questions. Do you smoke? Have you been getting exercise? Are you sleeping? But rarely do they ask: are you lonely? U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy believes we are suffering from an epidemic of loneliness. This week, we revisit our 2020 conversation with Murthy about the importance of human connection to our physical and mental health, and how we can all strengthen our social ties. A note that this week's episode...


Relationships 2.0: The Power of Tiny Interactions

As you're going about your day, you likely interact with family, friends and coworkers. These relationships can help you feel cared for and connected. But what if there's a whole category of people in your life whose impact is overlooked? In the second episode of our "Relationships 2.0" series, psychologist Gillian Sandstrom reveals some simple ways to make your life a little more joyful and maybe even a little less lonely. Did you catch the first episode in this series, about how to engage...


Relationships 2.0: How To Keep Conflict From Spiraling

When it comes to conflict, most of us just want to shut it down. But psychological research is increasingly taking a different approach to discord, with profound implications for disputes big and small. This week, we kick off our Relationships 2.0 series by asking: what if we stop trying to eliminate conflict and instead ask, how can we do conflict better? Did you catch our recent episode about how to make anxiety work for you? You can find it here. And if you like our work, please...


A Better Way to Worry

Anxiety is an uncomfortable emotion, which is why most of us try to avoid it. But psychologist Tracy Dennis-Tiwary says our anxiety is also trying to tell us something. This week, we explore how we can interpret those messages and manage the intense discomfort these feelings can generate. Did you catch our recent episode about how to break free from either-or thinking? You can find it here. And if you like our work, please consider a financial contribution to help us make many more episodes...


Thriving in the Face of Contradiction

We all face tough decisions in life, whether we're juggling the demands of work and family or deciding whether to take a new job. These situations often feel like either/or choices. But psychologist Wendy Smith says this binary way of confronting dilemmas contains a trap. She offers a different way to think about difficult choices, one that opens up unexpected possibilities. Did you catch our recent episode about why we sometimes confess to things we didn't do? You can find it here. And if...


Did I Really Do That?

Have you ever been falsely accused of something? Many of us think there’s only one way we’d act in such a situation: we’d defend ourselves. We’d do whatever it takes to clear our name — and above all else, we’d never, ever confess to something we didn’t do. But psychologist Saul Kassin says that’s a myth. This week, why we sometimes act against our own self-interest — even when the stakes are at their highest. Did you catch our recent episode about how we can make better use of our time?...


Watch Your Mouth

If you're bilingual or multilingual, you may have noticed that different languages make you stretch in different ways. This week, we revisit a favorite 2018 conversation with cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky. She studies how the structure of the languages we speak can change the way we see the world. Then, a 2017 conversation with linguist and author John McWhorter, who shares how languages evolve, and why we're sometimes resistant to those changes. If you like today's show, be sure to...

Taking Control of Your Time

Many of us feel like there aren't enough hours in the day. We struggle to make time for all the competing demands at work and at home, and inevitably feel like we're letting someone down. But what if there were a way to reclaim our time and, as a result, get more joy out of our lives? This week, psychologist Cassie Mogilner Holmes explains how we've fallen victim to the illusion of time scarcity, and what we can do to spend our time more wisely. Did you catch last week's episode about how...


How to Really Know Another Person

So often, we think we know what other people are thinking. But researchers have found that our attempts at reading other people go wrong more often than we realize. This week, we talk with psychologist Tessa West about what we can all do to read people more accurately. If you like today's show, be sure to check out last week's conversation about emotions, and how they're shaped by where we live. And if you'd like to support our work, you can do so at support.hiddenbrain.org.